It’s on! Cyber Season 2012 kicked off strong, with retailers generating nearly $5 billion in online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. It goes without saying that the promise of free shipping and deep discounts kept consumers glued to their computers, tablets, and smartphones, as they scoured the web for the best deals.

With holiday shopping messages on most every website, how did smart retailers stand out and use their page real estate wisely to attract and convert the frenzied, bargain-seeking masses? Here are the top three trends we noted:

#1. Countdown banners
Retailers used banners to communicate the days left in their Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and/or Cyber Week offers. Many scheduled their creative swaps for midnight, changing the message from “3 days left” to “2 days left,” “last day,” “extended,” or something similar to this sequence.

Another spin on the countdown idea involved retailers using banners to highlight the time-limited nature of their overall holiday promotions with eye-grabbing countdown timers. Whether the deals were free shipping and returns, category-specific markdowns, or site-wide discounts, coundown timers created urgency by ticking down the days, hours, and minutes left for shoppers to make their purchasing decisions.

Black Friday-Cyber Monday countdown banner

And by running these banners site-wide, save for during the checkout process, retailers made sure visitors never forgot about these opportunities to save money.

#2. Double-duty banners
In case one promotion didn’t move the needle for all visitors, some retailers stepped up their banner messaging by using one side to convey the specific countdown information (such as days left on a free shipping threshold offer) and the other to push the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and/or holiday deals. Separate clickzones let retailers drive shoppers further into the conversion funnel, like this retailer did.

Black Friday-Cyber Monday split banner

#3. Product badges with holiday-geared messaging
If there’s ever a time to leverage merchandising strategies, the holidays are it. As time passes, shoppers easily can forget where they saw particular product or sale. Help them quickly find what they’re looking for on your website with product badges that flag the items that are part of a sale, shipping offer, or holidays-only offering. One retailer has generated $23,000 (and counting) by highlighting the products it has included in its holiday gift guide, linking the badge back to the gift guide section of the website to encourage shoppers to expand their orders.

Black Friday-Cyber Monday badgeIn addition, badging can be used on category pages to present important ordering details, such as when items are sold out, expected back in stock at a certain time, or need to be ordered by a certain date to ensure Christmas delivery (as shown here).

Only time will tell if the predicted increases in ecommerce revenues will bear out, but we are 100% certain that retailers will roll out some amazing campaigns this season.

Which online marketing efforts have impressed you so far? You can use the comments tool below to share your faves. I’d love to hear about ‘em!